NOTHING is wrong with development when it does not displace people who have been in the community in their lifetime.

In a fresh round of evacuation, about 252 individuals mostly children from Sitio Camansi in Barangay Banglay in Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental sought shelter at the Provincial Capitol grounds on Friday dawn after they felt threatened as some soldiers belonging to the 58th Infantry Battalion occupied their houses on Thursday, June 4.

Captain Jo Patrick Martinez, spokesperson of the 4th Infantry Division, confirmed that soldiers have been deployed in Sitio Camansi to secure the area for the electricity switch on ceremony there.

Governor Yevgenvy Vincente Emano’s administration is bent on promoting tourism in the province to improve the lives of its people.

Resources

Lagonglong, particularly sitio Camansi, has a hot spring that has been eyed as a potential tourist destination that could add up to the tourism project in the province.

Ireneo Udarbe, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Nothern Mindanao Region (KMP-NMR) chair, said that the installation of the electricity is hastened not for the community but to pave the way for the other projects such as mining.

Udarbe believes that Sitio Camansi is an ideal doorway of the tourism plans of the province due to the existence of a natural hot spring that is believed to cure skin diseases. He also enumerated other possible projects that could come in such as the inactive volcano which is potential for geothermal plant site, Mount Balatukan which allegedly has gold deposits and the nearby lake in Barangay Bantawan in Gingoog City.

Udarbe furthered the place is beautifully blessed with natural resources but once these programs will commence, the people especially the lumads will be displaced as it had always happened to areas where development had come in.

Displaced

This is the third time that Babing Helogon, 94 years old, who was born in Sitio Camansi, had to leave her home. She is one of the Higaonons that has been in the community since she was little. “Niputi nalang pud ang buhok sa akong anak,” she said referring to Titay Helogon, 70 years old, “didto ra gihapon mi nagpuyo,” she added.

Babing said that they are contented with their lives in the community but the military and armed groups have been disturbing their peace. What her family wants is preserve the environment and that they do not want anyone to touch the natural resources the community is blessed with.

On June 4, Babing was tending to her crops that morning when the soldiers came that day. After hearing that the soldiers are going to stay in the community for six months, she immediately warned her family that it is not a good sign and started packing their things.

Since Emelisa Culita was five she has been experiencing displacement and has gone from one home to another. Emelisa, now 38, shared that her family used to live in Cebu but they were accused of being members of the New Peoples’ Army (NPA). But she said they were just farmers tilling their land.

“Sa akong pagdagan-dagan, nag edad nalang ko gikan singko anyos hangtod 8 anyos hangtud na-dalaga ko, mao among kinabuhi didto sa Cebu, mga biktima lagi sa pasangil,” Emelisa lamented.

She furthered that fleeing to Mindanao they reached Impasug-ong town in Bukidnon in 1993 and in 2009 they were again accused of being NPAs.

“We lived peacefully there until one day, nahawa na usab kay pasanginlan na pud lagi, sa among sitwasyon, kung NPA pa mi di na unta mi garehistro sa barangay,” she said adding that since “sila man ang naay armas, nangdagan napud mi.”

Now, in Sitio Camansi, she furthered “mao napud among kinabuhi, among kahimtang nga walay pagpundar,” she lamented.

Emelisa believes the installation of the electricity in their area is a justification for the soldiers to harass and push them out of the community.

She recalled that on May 1, there was a mortar bombardment that occurred near their area which prompted them to evacuate and sought the help of their mayor in Lagonglong, but the latter never showed up. “Niabot nalang og semana, ila na pud ming gipabalik sa amo,” she said as they were assured that the soldiers had left their community.

Emelisa added “nibalik mi, wala pa gani nag bulan, nia napud mi diri, tungod kay naa man didto ang mga sundalo, pirmi kaming biktima. Karon, ipabalik napud mi, among panawagan nga i-pull out ang mga sundalo, wala gihapon nadunggan, bisag unsaon namo, wala gayud mi ani mahimo,” she said.

NCIP

Datu Mansimbalan of Sitio Camansi said that in 2013 a representative from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) approached and asked him to sign some documents.

Mansimbalan said the NCIP representative promised that once Mansimbalan signed the document, the latter will have a big house plus a start-up capital, but he did not budge fearing his children and the next generation would lose their source of livelihood.

Roberto Almonte, newly installed NCIP 10 director, said it is a protocol that when dealing with lumads their customs and traditions must be followed and respected. Asked whether Mansimbalan’s allegation of that NCIP representative is true, Almonte declined to comment since he still would look into all the NCIP 10 dealings at Mansimbalan’s community

Rights violations

Almonte said that if it were true that a soldier aimed a gun at Datu Reynaldo Ayuma, the soldier committed a human rights violation.

“Atong ilhon nga naa silay kaugalingong panggamhanan,” and cited that the law of the country knows this under the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA), the right to cultural integrity.

Almonte would also look into programs being entered into the community.

“Tan-awon pa namo sa NCIP, kung naa ba gayud napahigayon nga FPIC (Free Prior and Informed Consent) diha sa lugar,” he said.

The FPIC is one of the mechanisms of NCIP in weighing the validation of the programs being presented for the Indigenous Peoples (IPs).

Ecotourism or any projects that would involve IP ancestral domain must go through the NCIP, Almonte said.

He added the lumads should be informed well about the programs. “Ipasabot na unta daan sa ila aron makasabot sila, magpaila sa sa ilaha,” he said adding that looking at the situation in Sitio Camansi, “wala man nananghid sa ila (IPs).”

Now, “daghan na istorya, naa gold, geothermal unya tana-awa karon, naa'y electricity og spring man diay ang tuyo,” he added.

Almonte vowed to look into the electrification and spring projects if these have passed through the NCIP process.

Dialogue

Emano mediated a dialogue between the evacuees and the military at about 11:00 a.m. Saturday, June 6.

The governor assured he would ask the military to pull out. “Hangyo ta nga musibog sila, dili sila muduol o butangan sa ilang detachment duol sa community kay luoy ang mga tao madamay,” he said.

However, Martinez insisted it is not possible since it’s their job to secure the area but assured the soldiers will distance from the community.

Emano said the province through his legal office would file charges against the soldiers who allegedly violated the rights of the Higaonon residents in the area. He has ordered his legal officer to get the names of the involved soldiers.

During the dialogue, Emano tried to persuade the residents to go home as he assured the province would assist them in providing clothes, food, medicine and seedlings so they can start planting again as the rainy season starts this month.

Emano added once the information that he needed would be supplied the residents will be sent home by Saturday afternoon.